Money Talks

J. Team teaches that you’re never too young to be financially savvy.

I am a third-generation member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County in New Jersey. My roots in my local federation began with my grandparents who both held active roles in the community; my grandmother was a former president of the federation. From the programs she has endorsed to the lessons she taught, she has been — and remains — an influential part of my life.

Some of those values my grandmother instilled in me, such as Jewish charitable giving and helping the community, translated into my participation in federation’s programs including J. Team. J. Team is the Jewish youth philanthropy team at the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. It educates high school students from the central New Jersey area about non-profits and how philanthropic agencies allocate donations. Our J. Team contributions are matched by The Karma Foundation, which provides grants to support New Jersey organizations that enrich Jewish life.

J. Team has allowed me to make new friends and truly learn all about Jewish values, non-profits and how to cooperate with my team partners. After three years in J. Team I know how to examine a non-profit’s balance sheet and determine whether my donations are really going to the cause we want. I am so proud to be one of the many Americans who give to charity annually.

J. Team inspired me to apply my skills in examining organizations and budgeting to socially responsible investing. The knowledge I have gained at J. Team is something that everyone should be able to apply to his or her life. I brought the skills I learned to my Temple, Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, N.J. and started The Responsible Investment Club. The club teaches teens how to be financially and socially responsible from a Jewish perspective. 

Every month, 11 of us meet to learn from industry leaders in our community. We put together theoretical group investments — these are based on a financial perspective and on socially responsible Jewish values. These investments are made from our free practice investing account, which means that we can practice investing with no risk. By the end of each year, club members will be able to apply their methods of socially responsible investing to their own portfolios. The clothing industry is our newest research program; we are examining the industry’s financial success and social responsibility. Without my experiences from J. Team and federation, I would not have been able to teach others the importance of Jewish charitable giving.

At J. Team we can give to the charity of our choice, as long as all group members agree. During my first year I convinced my group to donate around $2,000 to my charity of choice, Gift of Life. Gift of Life is an organization that supports organ and tissue donation. After giving that donation, I was able to meet their CEO, president and vice presidents. I spoke to the organization’s staff of over 120 people last year, thanking them for all of the important work they do. I have developed a relationship with one of their vice presidents and now I speak to high school students in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to educate them about the importance of organ donation. These opportunities all began with my involvement in the federation’s program and they could not have happened without the support from J. Team.

author's bio: 
Zach Mandell is a junior at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, N.J.